You got WHAT on your report card! Parent portals ‘spoil’ the surprise

December 1, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

I don’t like surprises. Not for birthdays or anniversaries, and especially not when it comes to my children’s report cards. Luckily, parents no longer need to be taken by surprise by the grades and comments on the quarterly report from school. Today, there are many ways parents can keep track of their children’s performance on a regular basis.

While parents of elementary-age students typically rely upon direct communication with their child’s teacher to address concerns or questions, things get a bit more high tech at the secondary level. Many districts now utilize a student management system, often referred to as a parent portal, which allows timely access to homework assignments, projects, and an ongoing record of students’ grades.

Wondering if your child finished that project on time, but you forgot to ask as he ran out the door to catch the bus? Check the student management system.

Did you receive a progress report and are confused by a grade or comment? Check your child’s grades through the portal.

Here’s the best part: in the fast paced world in which we work and live, many of us can access our child’s grades with a few clicks of the computer. Gone are the days when getting report cards in the mail sent ripples of angst throughout the house.

I can quickly find out how my daughter did on yesterday’s exam or if my son has completed his homework. If you’re like me and you don’t like surprises, this accessible snapshot of my child’s standing is much appreciated BEFORE we approach the end of a marking period.

Information is power, especially when it comes to having a clear picture of your child’s progress in the classroom.

What information gets shared, and how does it help?

So what do all these test and quiz grades, project evaluations and comments actually mean, and how does this improved access help my student learn?

According to Wayne Williams, Monroe-Woodbury High School’s Chairperson of the Counseling Department, report cards are a true representation at the high school level of a student’s achievement and progress.

“These report cards are so much more than just numbers and grades on a piece of paper,” said Wiliams. “Teachers put a lot of effort into their comments that accompany the grades. Parents should pay attention to these comments and contact teachers directly if they have concerns or questions.

Progress reports are usually provided every five weeks as a “check-up,” and don’t appear in the student’s official file, but they give students and their parents the opportunity to ‘fix’ what’s not working.

“Progress reports and report cards remain the most reliable form of communication between teachers and parents,” Williams asserts.

Finance teacher and Head of the Academy of Finance at Monticello High School Susan Bahrenburg takes the process one step further.

“At the midterm point each term, we meet with each one of our Academy students to discuss his progress and address any issues of concern or to say ‘great job; keep it up!’ We encourage our students to take advantage of resources available. If a student is really struggling, I will reach out to their parents,” Bahrenburg said. “We are all on the same team and I want students and their parents to know that we care about them as an individual. It’s important to keep the dialogue going.”

Communication matters

Both Williams and Bahrenburg emphasized the importance of continuing communication between teachers, parents and students. Relationships matter and old-fashioned communication is still best. While technology serves an important purpose in a world where parents may find they have only a minute or two free in a day, a phone call or face-to-face conversation with your child’s teacher may still be the best approach when a report card or progress report isn’t what you expected.

“Parents and teachers should be active partners in their efforts to ensure students’ success,” Williams said. “With the many communication tools available to parents, we can work together to more immediately provide extra help when needed, nurture growth and celebrate success. That helps create an environment where student learning can thrive.”

Carole Spendley is a public information specialist for Capital Region BOCES. With four children ranging in ages from 13-20, she is the first to say, “been there, done that!” and loves the opportunity to share her experiences with Parent Today readers.

Copyright ©2015 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission

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